The Lake House (vs. The Doll House)

(Please see Part 1, The Doll House, before reading this entry).

My aunt’s lake house in North Jersey was always the highlight of my summers. On the way down, we would always stop at this cute little homemade ice cream shop at the side of the road. Despite my mother’s protests, my aunt always ordered me a two-scoop Black Raspberry ice cream on a sugar cone. Normally, mom usually wouldn’t let me get “red colored” ice cream or italian ice because she was afraid I would stain my clothes, and she wouldn’t allow me to get sugar or waffle cones because she was afraid they would break my teeth. Needless to say, I still hate vanilla ice cream and “cake cones” to this day.

On this particular afternoon, I wolfed down the ice cream as fast as I could, and between brain freezes, I begged my family to get back in the car.

My mother rolled her eyes. “Vait vait, don’t vorry, you’ll get to play the Candyland soon.”

Normally, I was thrilled to go to the lake house because I got to play with the antiquated Candyland that they kept on the coffee table. Being an only was lonely at times, and my two cousins proved to be better opponents than my Barbies and my knock-off Teddy Ruxpin. But this time, I was anxious to get to there because I knew what was in the trunk – the doll house.

We finally arrived at the house, which was one of about fifteen other old, wood-faced homes on the lake. As usual, we parked about a million miles away from the house. Parking was frequently an issue since the locals hogged all the spots with their broken down “classic cars.” I could bet money that even 20 years after the fact, the same rusty 1960’s GTO is still sitting in my aunt’s assigned parking spot.

My family dragged the many bags through the overgrown jungle that was the side yard. My aunt always “meant to” bring a lawnmower out to the house, the very same way her husband always “meant to” fix the planks on the adjoining boat garage – until the planks inevitably caved and allowed their untied speedboat to float up Cranbury Lake and out of their lives. We managed to pull the bags through the tangle of weeds, but one of the bags ripped, spreading shoes and itchy sweaters everywhere. There was general chaos until my aunt ran up to get another garbage bags. She wore a pair of stained gardening gloves to avoid poking herself with thistles that were now embedded in the clothing. She scooped everything into the bag and we dragged it up the rickety staircase into the Lake House.

I sat on the couch and looked at the hideous stuffed fish that was mounted above the foyer as my family grabbed the rest of our belongings from the car. I spotted the infamous triangular bag in the corner of the room. The excessive pulling, pushing, and dragged left several dime-sized hole in the bag, and I could clearly see the pink plastic facing and the purple shutters.

As I went to reach for it, my mother walked through the door and yelled, “Don’t touch that! Now, go pee so ve need to go get firevood and tings from dah store!”

There were several issues with this request. First and foremost, I just wanted to play with the stupid dollhouse, but I didn’t dare disobey my mother because she would tell – and since I was an overly-sensitive seven-year old, I would cry whenever someone yelled at me.

The other issue was that peeing at the Lake House was an unpleasant, multi-step process. It required going into the horribly scary bathroom with no light, trying to find the toilet to “go” in, and then promptly going down to the lake with a bucket, washing your hands with the weird-smelling lye soap, and then bringing the bucket full of soapy water back upstairs in order to flush the water-less toilet. I would have rather “held it” for a few more hours.

And then of course there was the firewood store. This required us to cross the entire lake using the longest, most rickety swinging wooden bridge on the planet. For whatever reason, I was the only one terrified of this bridge – maybe because I can’t swim. As usual, by the time we walked all the way to the bridge, my mom and aunt were engrossed in conversation, so didn’t seem to hear my terrified yelps as my cousins swung the bridge to and fro, screaming, “Oh, no, it’s gonna fall!”

We finally arrived at the wood store and they bought some lighter fluid and kindling for the fireplace. The store was on the main road, so it seemed like we were only off the bridge for a minute before we had to go back onto it. I couldn’t handle anymore teasing, so I stood at the entrance, hysterically brawling until my aunt scooped me up and carrying me all the way across.
I think my cousins felt guilty, so they immediately opened the Candyland box when we got into the house. For a moment, I forgot about the dollhouse in the other room and fell into the world of “Plumpy” and “Queen Frostine” in the Gum Drop Mountain. I heard my aunt gathering the wood for a fire, while my mom pulled out sandwiches for us from the cooler. We munched on our dinner as my aunt lit the fire, and my mom put on a pair of plastic gloves. My mom grabbed one of the garbage bags and asked my aunt something inaudible.

“This is it!” I thought, “I’m gonna get my toys!” I figured I would be generous and share some of the clothes with my cousins, but not any of the toys because they were so mean to me on the bridge.

My mom rooted through the garbage and pulled out a pair of jeans. My aunt looked at them, nodded…and then she threw them into the flames.

I was confused at what was happening at first, until I saw my mom grab a brand new teddy bear and toss it in like an old rag.

I screamed. I cried. My mother and aunt were genuinely confused.

I ran to protect the dollhouse, nearly impaling myself on its pointed roof. My mom screamed at me to back away. “Dese are Lisa’s tings! They are not for you! Don’t touch them – you don’t want to catch the asthma, do you?”

Turns out, my mom and aunt were always told by Nagymama that everyone had “Infection Asthma .” And I guess they believed her. After all, that’s why Lisa, her mom, her sister, and her brother had asthma – it couldn’t POSSIBLY have anything to do with genetics.

So, on that day, a lot of things went up in flames, including my hope and dreams for a Barbie Dollhouse. In retrospect, I know my family was just looking out for me (even though the fumes from burning plastic probably caused more damage than a made-up disease ever would). But even today, as a 25-year old woman, every time I see a fireplace, I see a mental picture of a sad-looking teddy bear melting into oblivion.

Eh, what’s a childhood without some scars, right?